Take care when you compare

When I ran an advertising agency, I was in the privileged position of getting to see how big businesses operated behind the scenes.

I also often had occasion to talk to people working in those businesses in a way which entailed them confessing to me how things really were.

It was common to find that beneath the shiny surface veneer, most organisations spent quite a bit of their time flying by the seat of their pants.

Their people are often poorly motivated, and inter-departmental (even intra-departmental) warfare is rife.

Yet, as I say, look at that organisation from the outside, and you’d probably believe they were a paragon of virtue.

My good friends at Action for Happiness in London use a powerful line in one of their posters (which promote, well, actions for happiness) that suggests we shouldn’t compare our insides with other people’s outsides.

I love this idea, as I think it describes exactly what we’re often inclined to do.

Even worse, we probably take a jaundiced view of our insides, which we then compare with the ‘grass is always greener’ conclusions we draw when we observe others.

If your life goes through a grey patch, you may peer around and imagine everyone else is fine, compounding your own despair.

But this is because you’re comparing you own inner feelings with the masks that many others may be showing to the world.

You’re comparing apples with oranges.

Better by far, if you can, to accept that most of us are flakier on the inside than we seem.

Perhaps in some ways we’re all slightly mad.

Well, I do speak for myself, of course.

7 thoughts on “Take care when you compare

  1. Ah thanks Jon…this came up funnily enough, on Moodscope a few days ago.

    So many of us are guilty of this. It’s so unkind to our self. We can never know what’s going on in someone else’s mind!

    My Mum used to do the accounts for a few companies and she said that some showed off like they had all the money in the world…fast cars, smart clothes etc. But their accounts were in a state and they lived off credit cards – often unable to pay them and sustain the ‘image’.

  2. I soon as I read this – I went aha! I instinctively knew it to be true but have never articulated it in words! Thanks for the eye opener!

  3. It so true what you say Jon, what shows on the outside can be very different from what is going on inside.
    A few years ago whilst working as a nurse in general practice I overheard some of my patients talking about me in the waiting room. The essence of the conversation was how lucky I was with everything going for me whereas their lives were beset with problems. It made me smile because at the time I was struggling with my eldest daughter who has Angelman’s syndrome, my wonderful husband drowned at sea in a fishing accident four years earlier, and I had recently set up home with a man also recently widowed, so I was having to deal with five bereaved children, instead of three and my two new children, rapidly entering into adolescence resented me being in their birth mothers place.
    It was a tough going, but worth it!!

  4. It was Oscar Wilde who wrote that comparison is both a temptation and a mistake. How right he was, why do we find it so hard to remember!?

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